Photo: Olesya Kuznetsova/Shutterstock

In Defense Of The Introverted Traveler

by Christine DeSadeleer Feb 19, 2010
Why does the enjoyment of travel mean a person should enjoy meeting new people?

I would classify myself as landing almost directly in the middle between introvert and extrovert. At least, that’s what most of those fun personality tests have told me.

Sometimes I get energy from being around people, while other times I need to refresh with some serious alone time. So I can easily appreciate view points that fall on either side of the equation.

But being an introverted traveler is not something we often discuss. It almost seems like the antithesis of going out to explore the world to say “I’m not much interested in meeting the people that are a part of it.” Which is why I so appreciated a recent article by Sophia Dembling over at World Hum entitled, Confessions of an Introverted Traveler.

I love how Dembling sheepishly admits “I’m always happy enough when interesting people stumble into my path,” she says. “And when the chemistry is right, I enjoy it.” Hear, hear. But going out of your way to meet people? Striking up a conversation with a random person? Not really her thing, and I can relate (unless I’ve had a particularly large amount of caffeine that day).

What’s so wrong with being an introvert, anyway? Well, as Dembling notes:

I have long been shamed out of owning my introversion by the extroverts who dominate American culture. Extroversion has long been considered healthier than introversion, and introverts often try to push against our natural tendencies in order to fit in, to seem “normal” so people will stop scolding us.

Yeah, what’s up with that? Can’t us innies get just as much from hiking the hills of a new city, reading about the history of a Cathedral or slum, or watching locals pass by as we sit on a bench Unter der Linden as those who like to chat up every person that walks by?

Extroversion Benefits

I was at a concert last night where I noticed a completely obvious “benefit” of being an extrovert. There was a guy who chatted people up left and right, who had obtained a backstage access badge due to his personality “tendencies.”

That’s not the part that got me, though. When we stepped outside for him to smoke a cigarette, he confessed he wanted to smoke “something else”… except security was hovering. Suddenly, another guy came up and lit a joint.

Bam! Undercover security rolls up and grabs both of them to kick them out. The guy with the backstage pass just says, “Hey, man, I’m with the band,” and the security guy lets him go. The other guy, who didn’t say anything – well, you know what happened to him.

In other words, in travel, as in life, it pays to know how to be that “healthier” talkative person. No doubt those extroverts get bigger discounts at hostels, are better equipped to haggle at a market, and may get in with the locals – and more authentic local culture – than introverts.

But maybe, if we let those extroverts get the extras they thrive on (like getting out of sticky situations), and allow those introverts to enjoy their time watching others without making them feel less for “not getting out there,” it could work out for all of us.

As for me, guess it depends on the day. I’ll take a few extras now and again.

Do you think introverted travelers should make more of an effort to connect with people during their travels? Share your thoughts below.

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